How to Make It Through a Fight with Your Best Friend
There are few things as agonizing, and lonely, and as confusing as experiencing a serious fight with your closest friend. It’s difficult to know who to turn to for advice, and for strength, when the person you normally take all your problems to is suddenly the source of your problem!
Keep in mind: we don’t know exactly what your fight was about, or how serious it was. We don’t know how badly you were hurt by it, or how badly your friend was hurt, but if you decide that the future of your friendship is worth more than the content of your fight, then read on for our advice on how to get past this.
1.Take a break.
Give each other some time and space to cool down. The heat of the moment is not the place to settle this conflict. Emotions are just too high. Neither one of you will be ready yet to reflect on your own feelings, to really understand your hurt, to accept blame, or to see the other’s side yet.
Use this time to decompress, and to remember that your life beyond this fight is still moving along—that the world’s still turning. Go spend time with family, or with other friends. Throw yourself back into your hobbies, or studies, or whatever activity helps you find peace of mind. Don’t let this fight take over your every thought, otherwise it will be hard to see it with clarity.
Take some time to work through your feelings. What are you really upset about? How do you feel hurt, or misunderstood? What do you feel remorseful about? Until you can pinpoint what’s upset you and why, you won’t be able to have a productive conversation with your friend. And if, in this period of reflection, you decide your friend has been too unkind for too long, too dismissive of your feelings, too damaging to your self-esteem, then it’s ok to say: this friendship has run its course. If the friendship doesn’t bring out the best in you, don’t keep suffering for it.
2. Imagine things from your friend’s perspective.
Once you’ve had some time to cool down and think a bit more clearly, it’s time to try to see things from your friend’s perspective. How would you feel? How would you have acted or reacted? What would you want to hear if it were you? You know your friend as well as anybody, so put yourself in their shoes, even if that means seeing your own actions in an uncomfortable light. You don’t have to agree with them, or take their side, but you’ll need to understand and acknowledge their feelings if you hope to put this all behind you someday.
Now is also a good time to ask yourself: what was this fight really about? Sure, there’s how the fight started—the big blowup—but was it about something deeper than just that? Has there been tension simmering beneath the surface? Maybe what you’re really upset about, or what your friend is upset about, is not this specific argument itself, but all the feelings that led up to it. It may be that the issue you and your friend really need to confront is larger than the fight itself. Is this part of a larger pattern? If so, think about how you might break free of that pattern.
3. Keep calm and levelheaded.
It may be tempting to vent to mutual friends, but it’s best if you keep them out of this private episode. Instead, look for advice and comfort from people outside of that social circle—your parents, siblings, or friends far removed from the conflict, etc. You don’t want to create a situation where all your mutual friends are taking sides; it’ll only make the division deeper, and the fallout more bitter and hurtful.
Whatever you do, resist posting about this struggle on social media! Venting online can make permanent what was only a passing feeling, and you’ll probably regret that later. This is between the two of you; the internet shouldn’t be privileged to these painful moments in your relationship. This friendship is fragile right now, and to save it, you’ll need to hold it close.
If your friend takes the low road, and starts gossiping online, gossiping with mutual friends—if your friend spreads rumors around school or reveals secrets you shared in confidence, be strong and choose grace. We know that being the bigger person is easier said than done, but there’s no satisfaction in stooping to that level, and hurting them the way they’ve hurt you. When we strike back against the people we care about, we strike also at that part of us that cares for them. It sucks to get hurt by someone you trusted, but getting even only makes it feel worse.
4. Apologize when you’re ready.
When you feel like you’re finally ready to apologize, or to forgive (probably some of both), ask your friend if there’s a time you could meet in person. Apologies are most effective when we get to deliver them face to face; body language is important in conveying emotion. If in-person just won’t do, you can begin an apology over the phone or in a thoughtful letter, but avoid apologizing in a text. Texts are cheap, and your apology will have more meaning if you are deliberate in your effort.
Think your apology through advance, and make sure it’s sincere! Here’s a way not to apologize: If your friend’s feelings were hurt by something you said, don’t say, “I’m sorry if what I said hurt your feelings.” That’s not really accepting responsibility for your actions; it shifts the blame onto your friend for their reaction. Instead, just apologize for saying something that was hurtful. If you’re not prepared to really own your apology, then maybe you’re not ready to apologize yet. Take your time.
If you both had some responsibility in this fight, you may not feel like apologizing first, as if, by apologizing for the role you played in the fight, you’re taking blame for the whole thing. Try not to think of it that way though. Say sorry freely, without expecting an apology from your friend. A sincere apology doesn’t require an apology in return. So say sorry because you believe it’s the right thing to do, because you mean it, and because it will ease your conscience. If your friend isn’t ready to say sorry yet, then give them time.
5. Don’t linger on it any longer than you have to.
Once the apologies have been given and accepted; once the feelings have been shared and acknowledged, try to put it all behind you! Chances are it’s still a little raw, and will remain a little raw, but talking it over and over again won’t erase the fight; it may just irritate the memory.
So go do something fun and normal. All the ways you used to have fun—go do that stuff again. Catch up on everything that’s happened while you two were giving each other space.
Moving on from the fight doesn’t mean forgetting it completely. Try to learn from it. Adjust your behavior together. You’ve seen a new side to your friend now, and in that way you understand each other more deeply. If you’re open, if you’re honest, and if you’re generous in your forgiveness and humility, you may just come through this with a stronger bond.
If you’d like to talk your specific situation over with a good listener, there are teens who want to listen at Teen Line. Call 310-855-4673, or text TEEN to 839863.